For Student Athletes

Youth Concussion in Sports & Benefits of Baseline Assessments

Concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) triggered by a direct or indirect hit to the face, neck or body causing the head and brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, damaging brain cells. Over 300,000 sports-related concussions occur annually in the U.S. according to the University of Pittsburgh’s Brain Trauma Research Center, and the likelihood of suffering a concussion while playing a contact sport is estimated to be as high as 19 percent per year of play. High school contact sports are responsible for over 62,000 concussions each year; among college football players, 34 percent have had one concussion, and 20 percent have endured multiple concussions.

Concussion is often called the silent epidemic because symptoms are invisible and often go unrecognized. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can have long-term cognitive, physical and emotional effects. An initial sign of concussion can be loss of consciousness, however this is not true in all cases as each TBI is unique to the individual. Other common symptoms include

  • On-the-field amnesia
  • Confusion
  • Forgetfulness (“brain fog”)
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Light sensitivity
  • Feelings of sluggishness

Dr. Chiappino discusses neurofeedback training with a patient who suffered a football concussion

Concussion in a child is even more serious than for an adult since the pediatric brain is still developing; many children with traumatic brain injuries often face long-term cognitive, behavioral and social challenges. The key of course is prevention through proper training and equipment; although helmets are essential in preventing skull fracture, no helmet is concussion-proof. A Sports Baseline Neurological Assessment prior to the start of the season provides crucial data in the unfortunate event of concussion to serve as a comparative basis in a post-injury evaluation and for developing a healing plan.

New Life Wellness Center’s baseline assessment begins with a Quantitative Electroencephalographic (QEEG) brain map which provides baseline data on the child’s neurological health. The “Q” is painless and non-invasive; sensors measure and record electrical activity in the various regions of the brain, noting neurological capabilities and deficits. The “Q” is followed by a clinical neurological exam which measures the child’s sensory and motor abilities, balance and coordination. If traumatic brain injury is suspected during the season, the baseline provides objective data on areas of brain dysfunction which helps with recovery and return-to-play planning.

A clinical diagnosis of traumatic brain injury such as concussion is typically based on subjective symptoms reported by parents or observed by clinicians. The assessment tools in a neurological baseline are more objective and effective, providing factual evidence of any brain dysfunction. This data is essential for creating a rehabilitation plan to restore a patient’s neurological health.